Moat Haunted Places in America: Athens Lunatic Asylum
The former Athens Lunatic Asylum has undergone many name changes over the years. It has been called everything from The Athens Hospital for the Insane to the Athens Mental Health Hospital. Today, it’s known as Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare. The early treatment for mental disorders was very primitive. This could be the reason behind so many Athens Lunatic Asylum ghosts sightings.
When it was first opened in 1874, the Athens Lunatic Asylum kept violent criminals, both male and female. It also provided healthcare to Civil War veterans and children. The horrific lobotomy procedure was also used on patients suffering from mental disorders.
Within two years of the hospital’s opening, it was renamed The Athens Hospital for the Insane. The land on which it was built was once part of farmland owned by well-known farmers in the area. By the time the hospital was built, the farmland covered 1,000 acres. The idea to construct an asylum came up after the Civil War.
Architect Levi T. Scofield was in charge of the design, which was Late Victorian. The hospital has undergone revivals in the late 19th and 20th centuries.
Over it’s nearly 140 years of existence, the hospital has had divisions such as the Tubercular Ward, Beacon School, and Dairy Barn.
The original center was in operation from 1874 to 1993. Due to the livestock it kept, carriage shop it ran, dairy it ran, etc., it was never a self-sustaining hospital facility. The original design was based on the Kirkbride plan of including the administration building in the center and one wing to its left, and one to its right. The female patients were to be kept in the left-wing, and the male on the right. The finished design ended up being twice as large, and much of the extra space wasn’t needed for the hospital.
Herman Haerlin designed the landscape for the hospital. He is also known for his landscape designs for the Oval at Ohio State University and Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. The total square footage of the hospital was recorded at nearly 661,000 square feet.
Even though Athens Mental Health Center was closed in 1993, the institution continued to function. Patients and staff were relocated to a newer facility. The psychiatric hospital in Athens is currently known as Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare.
One of the popular paranormal stories told about the institution is that of an inmate named Margaret Schilling. Though not conclusive if she is one of the Athens Lunatic Asylum ghosts, there is an interesting paranormal phenomenon regarding her death. Margaret disappeared from the campus in January, 1972 right before the institution was scheduled to be closed. A search party was formed but she could not be found anywhere. The center was closed as scheduled and Margaret was never found.
About 5 weeks later a maintenance worker was working in Ward 20 and found Margaret’s body in the attic. The figured she hid in the attic thinking she might be in trouble and in her state of mind, she starved to death right there in the attic.
Her body had begun to decompose and when it was removed a perfect outline of her body superimposed on the floor. It was very detailed and included the style of hair and even wrinkles in her clothes. The stain was immediately cleaned only to return later. After a few times of it being scrubbed away only to find it reappear over and over, they stopped cleaning and the stain remains in the attic to this day.